A Conversation with Soňa Erba of Stitching Poetry

One of the most exciting parts of working at Merchant & Mills? Seeing what our customers sew up with our fabrics. Soňa of Stitching Poetry has long been a source of inspiration and awe – and we recently spoke with her about her sewing practice.

Oversized Overcoat in Soft Stitch Jacquard Ecru 

Skirt in Gelato Wool 

How long have you been sewing? Are you self-taught or professionally trained?
I’ve been sewing on and off since my childhood, starting with stitching tiny clothes for dolls. I`ve learned the basics of sewing from my mother and my grandmother. They were often making clothes from Burda and I was eager to try it too.
When I’m faced with a difficult sewing task, sometimes I wish I had professional training, but to tell you the truth, it hasn’t stopped me from experimenting. I encourage as many people as I can to start sewing regardless of being inexperienced. Skills improve quickly and while making mistakes hurts, it`s a very essential part of the learning process. Sewing brings satisfaction and peacefulness. It allows our minds to rest from the chaos around us. I dare to think we all need some therapeutic activity like that in our lives.

How do you come up with your ideas? Does it start with the fabric or the silhouette?
I think it’s both equally. Sometimes it’s a fabric that catches my eye and then I look for an ideal garment to make out of it. Other times I might see an image of an outfit that gets stuck in my head and start looking for materials and ways how to make it. Creating mood boards and researching is something I always do before I start sewing anything.

What is your background, do you work in a creative field?

I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer all throughout my childhood and teens. I remember making fashion sketches all the time. But instead of following my inner urge, I chose to follow my father’s path. He was a potter and I grew up playing with clay in his workshop. It felt like a perfect pragmatic decision for me to go and study ceramics and porcelain craftsmanship at art school. Both my dad and I thought I would carry on his craft, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is, I`ve never touched clay properly since my studies were done.

Soon after I finished school, clothes snuck into my life permanently when I (accidentally) started working as a freelance stylist and later as a fashion editor – which I’ve continued doing for almost 20 years now.

If you had to pick a current fabric on the Merchant & Mills website right now, what would you pick and make?

I’m waiting for the Forager Stripe linen to be restocked, as I’d love to use it for making daytime pyjamas with long trousers. I picture myself wearing it with a trench coat and trainers in spring.

Collared Dress in Renaissance Linen 

Double Sided Vest in Dauphine Jacquard Cotton

Your photos are so wonderful – do you plan your photoshoots, or do the poses and silhouettes just develop as the camera is rolling?

It`s mostly the latter. Shooting myself can be fun, but it can also be the most dreaded part of the process. I tend to be very critical of myself in general, which makes choosing final photos difficult. What I love about shooting my makes though is styling them with other pieces of clothes I’ve already made and seeing how they interact with each other.

Do you have a favorite part of the sewing/making process?

It keeps changing in time, but one part I find fascinating at the moment is pattern construction. I wish I could learn more about it to be able to draft any garment I think up. For now, I enjoy making little tweaks and modifications to the existing patterns. Using pattern blocks is also fun.

How does sustainability play a part in your sewing practice?

It plays a bigger and bigger role constantly. Working in the fashion field for so long fills me up with the frustration of being a part of an industry that can be both so harmful and unethical to humans and so devastating to our planet. I am trying to balance it out by sewing my own clothes rather than shopping for them. At the moment, I’ve decided that I only want to use deadstock or sustainable fabrics. I believe sustainable materials, which are made with greater care towards our environment, are also greater quality, and they are therefore more durable. Last but not least, they are much healthier to wear. Cutting into such fabric requires great respect and care. It’s also important for me to shop from trustworthy suppliers, who can provide complex information about materials they sell.

Another aspect of sustainability in my sewing practice is the number of garments I make. Before I think of making something new, I ask myself how wearable the piece will be, how will it combine with the rest of the clothing I already have, will I wear it often enough? I know from my own experience that sewing too much stuff out of euphoria can be just as unwise and addictive as shopping on high streets every weekend. It can result in a closet full of clothes worn once in a blue moon and that’s what I am trying to avoid as much as I can.

Ruffle Collar Blouse in Cassel linen